This evening was our busiest session ever with over 47 clients. Possibly however there were more who slipped through without signing in. Many new faces and very hungry people this week.
Everyone was on really good form this evening. We were six volunteers down so had to phone around to get last minute cover. I was panicking a bit but as usual everyone stepped up and it was fine. Sandra and Jan coped really well in the kitchen. There was a long queue at one stage but everyone was patient and very understanding.
Pots And Pans
Our relatively new couple came in again. Last week at the Foodbank I gave them everything but the kitchen sink. We kitted them out so they were warm enough. They said their bedding was very damp this week especially in the mornings. We have given them foil roll mats to try to stop the condensation and extra tarpaulin to put down on the ground but nothing seems to be working. John was an absolute star this evening (as always) he washed their camping, cooking pots and pans that were completely black. They have a little wood fire cooker which we have given them so they can cook and boil water. They said it works very well. We again had no hot water and the urn in the kitchen was not working properly either getting enough hot water was a slow process but the kitchen volunteers managed to sort it out. John was great he struggled on with those black pans until they were gleaming.
A GP At The Soup Kitchen Would Be An Asset
One of our regular clients came in he has fluid on his leg again. He’s been to the doctor but it is causing him pain. Mai-Britt has dealt with this situation in the past. He is not bad enough for a paramedic, but he cannot get to a doctor easily due to the nature of his work and the local hospital is not always the right place as the out of hours service is for minor injuries. The problem arises when a situation is not potentially serious enough to warrant the paramedics but he cannot get to Reading hospital for A&E. A medical practitioner and regular clinic is paramount for the Soup Kitchen. We have our wonderful RGN trained first aider but we always worry we do not have enough support. The ambulance service and paramedics are rushed off their feet and we do not want to waste recourses and time if it is not essential or emergency. Many rough sleepers do not have a doctor and find it difficult and embarrassing to go to a surgery. They can sometimes even now be turned away if they do not have an address. Some surgeries are improving with this however.
Out Of Hours Mental Health Support Needed
A man from Patient Advice & Liaison Service (PALS), Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust came in to see us. He heard me talk recently at a Healthwatch forum where I complained (again) about our lack of mental health support. He is interested in hearing about anyone that we think could be referred to them. It is wonderful to have the support of different agencies locally. Out of hours mental health support and a strong safeguarding and crisis phone line is paramount. We welcome anybody from the different departments in the council and healthcare trust to visit us to see what we do and give us advice and support to help make us a better facility for the homeless, rough sleepers and vulnerable in Newbury and West Berkshire.
Job Loss Through Alcohol Addiction
One of our clients has unfortunately has lost his job. Sadly his drinking issues had become problematic with his employment. As a result he has lost his job and accommodation that goes with it. He is angry at himself. People who are struggling with terrible addictions find it so hard to pick themselves up when they have a relapse. The constant feeling of failure and letting themselves down and people around them causes more anxiety and depression. Therefore the cycle continues. There is support out there for people but it is a tough road. We have offered to find help if he needs it. Alcoholics Anonymous and various organisations are out there to support him. Alcohol is a terrible addiction to kick, it is everywhere and socially acceptable therefore it is very very difficult to avoid. Alcohol addiction usually comes with another addiction, usually smoking, sometimes gambling or both. Dual diagnosis addictions are far harder to deal with as one is often a psychological crutch for the other. You have to get to the absolute bottom of the issues that cause the addiction in the first place in order for a person to begin the journey of recovery.
We have all between us managed to achieve something really special. The Soup Kitchen has become such an important place for people. A place where they can joke and laugh but also somewhere they can find friendship and compassion. One of our past clients came in to see us this evening. She talked to our guest from PALS and she was relaying stories of where and how we met. She slept by the canal for 4-5 days until we heard about her and went to find her. Erica my colleague and I organised a B&B for her. She was housed for a few months then homeless again and used the night shelter over Christmas. She is now happy and in an permanent accommodation. She told our man from PALS this evening that she would not have been here anymore without our support and us going out to find her that day in winter. That’s why we all do this.
Another one of our previous clients came in this evening to see our wonderful SEAP (Advocacy) lady. He was one of our first clients into the Soup Kitchen. I have personally mentored him over the last year and a half. I have been to meetings with him, helped him with benefit issues, walked him through everything needed to get him off the streets into a settled life, employment and a brighter future. We have had help along the way as helping vulnerable people is never down to one person. The difference however I have been on the end of a phone and a reliable person in his life. Many rough sleepers and homeless people do not have anybody they can rely on for support. We have been on one hell of a journey together. Seeing him today maybe me realise how great it is and how much he has achieved since I have known him.
Would You Be A Good Mentor?
We are looking for mentors for some of our clients but please be prepared to commit, long term. One of our chaps called it “a life mentor”. With time and the right support they become more independent and need you less but they know if necessary you are them to support them. That means a lot to someone. It is very frustrating at times but incredibly rewarding.